I’ve been reading Poly Land for a while now (first the site and eventually the book). I originally stumbled onto you after you were featured in The Huffington Post in “12 Questions People in Polyamorous Relationships Are Sick of Hearing.” I’ll be honest. I was kind of mad when I saw the article after a friend shared it. Because I’ve been polyamorous a long time, and I pride myself on being a resource to people around me who might be curious about polyamory but not know where to start.
As I’m sure you know, people who don’t know anything about polyamory do ask a lot of repeat questions. Some are offensive, yes, but I don’t get sick of answering them. I take it as a good sign that they’re curious and asking things — even if they are sometimes offensively worded or misguided due to lack of knowledge about the topic.
So I opened up this article by The Huffington Post thinking that it was kind of arrogant for the polyamorous people featured in it to be talking about how sick they were of answering questions. This is an opportunity to educate, guys! Calm down. Just answer the damn question.
That said, the questions and answers in the article were pretty good. A lot of them were in line with how I feel about things. I feel like the subject matter was well represented.
Anyway, I ended up checking out your site (and a few others) because of it. And I quickly got hooked on it. But I became confused by something as I read more articles about you… you seem so patient in the advice you give, in the letters you answer from readers, even when people ask similar to ones in this article. From my point of view, it doesn’t seem at all like you’re “sick of hearing” these kinds of questions.
Are you just good at faking interest? Am I missing something here?
Oh, and I also wanted to ask you: Why did you choose jealousy to talk about with The Huffington Post?
In any event, even though the headline initially annoyed me, I’m glad I read the article and checked out your site. I love that you write every day. I read the newest post while I’m eating my lunch at work, and it gives me something to think about for the rest of my shift.
Here’s how the whole thing went down: A reporter reached out to me identifying themselves and who they wrote for, asking me if I’d like to contribute to an article on polyamory they were working on.
I said yes. They told me they needed two or three questions for the piece, as well as a short paragraph answering those questions. They specifically asked for questions that I don’t enjoy receiving, ones that I’m often asked that are offensive and/or signal misconceptions about polyamory and polyamorous people.
I submitted three questions for the article. The reporter chose “Don’t you get jealous of each other’s relationships?” The other two I provided were the following:
- If you’re really in love, why do you date other people? Aren’t you enough for each other?
- Aren’t you worried you’re going to catch something sleeping with all those people?
Although the working title they gave me was different from the final one they ran, the reporter was admittedly honest with me about their intent — that the finished piece was going to focus on things that people really shouldn’t ask polyamorous people if they don’t want to offend or annoy them, questions that we hear a lot. And in publishing these questions and answers, the article would provide some educational background and possibly increase the understanding of polycurious readers about these topics.
The whole process of contributing to media pieces is a vastly different creature than writing content for your own site. When it’s your site, you set all of the terms — what you write about, what headlines you use, how much you edit or don’t. You have all the creative control.
Typically when you contribute to a piece written by a reporter, you don’t get control over what the headline is, the focus of the piece, or what part of your answer they ultimately decide to run (in this particular case, which question they liked best). The reporter sets the terms of the article when they approach you and ask you if you want to contribute, and you say yes or no to whatever those terms are.
Even then, sometimes the terms of the article will still slightly change after the point at which you consent (i.e., a working title is different from the final one, changing the overall slant/tone of the piece, etc.). Or, as happened to a colleague of mine, you might discover in the finished product that you’re featured next to essentially your mortal enemy, a person whose relationship philosophies you 100% oppose.
You usually don’t have complete creative control when you work with the media. Generally speaking, you have control over what you choose to say to them, the words you write or speak to them. But you don’t have control over how they edit that contribution (omitting context can sometimes drastically change the content of a piece), how they frame the article, who else they source, or the tone of the reporter’s final commentary.
Occasionally, the reporter will run the finished piece by everyone who contributed prior to publishing it — but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the deadlines are too tight, it’s not their usual practice, or they simply forget.
That said, I had a very good experience with The Huffington Post. The reporter was very professional (I’m a big fan of their work in general). I loved the finished article.
Was the headline my favorite thing ever? No. If I were looking to best describe my personal views on the matter, no, I never would have chosen that particular headline. Truthfully, I’m not really sick of answering those kinds of questions (sometimes, it’s literally my job to do so, and I like my job).
But when they asked me to produce my least favorite frequently asked questions, I was happy to do so. And I get why they picked that headline — it provokes an emotional response. Whether that response is “hell yeah, we’re sick of hearing it” or “well, that’s kind of arrogant” (more in line with yours), it gets people to click through and actually read.